These curious fruits are lychees. Native to southern China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia, these tropical fruits grow on evergreen trees and have rough reddish pink skins. Fresh lychees are fragrant and sweet, and they have been cultivated for over 4,000 years. The first records of lychees appear from China in 2000 BC; around 1600 AD, the first lychees were traded to Europe and the Americas. China produces the most lychees, followed by India, and they are also grown in Hawaii and Australia.
Fun Fact: In Chinese, “lychee” means “gift for a joyful life!”
How can we use lychees?
Known as a “super fruit,” lychees have inedible rinds and sweet, white insides that are enjoyed throughout the world. Lychees are most popularly eaten fresh and by hand. They are also commonly added to fruit salads, grilled on top of meats, incorporated in desserts and blended into drinks.
Fun Fact: Legends tell of the lychee’s “love” properties. The Chinese Emperor of the Tang Dynasty is believed to have ordered his guards to travel over 600 miles to pick lychees in order to attract his favorite mistress. Today, the lychee is a symbol of romance and love in China.
How are lychees good for me?
Lychees are cholesterol-free and low in calories, saturated fat and sodium. They supply us with dietary fiber and are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, which is important for the immune system. Additionally, a Journal of Nutritionstudy found that lychees contain the second highest amounts of polyphenols of all the fruits tested. This fruit also supplies B-complex vitamins such as B6, niacin and folate, which are essential for metabolism and a healthy nervous system. Lychees are packed with potassium, which helps promote cell and heart health, and contain copper, magnesium and phosphorous.
Fun Fact: Lychees contain 40% more vitamin C than orange juice! A 100 gram serving provides roughly 70 mg of Vitamin C, which is 117% of the suggested daily value.
How to buy lychees:
Intrigued by this sweet fruit? Lychees are harvested from May through September, and canned lychees are available year-round. Look for fruits with bright red or pink skins, as these will be the most flavorful. Lychees will not ripen any further once they have been picked, so refrigerate them in a plastic bag and they will keep for about a week. To prepare, use a knife to cut a circle through the skin around the circumference of the fruit and remove the rind. Break open the fleshy fruit to remove the seed, and enjoy!
Is there a particular fruit or vegetable that you would like to see featured as our “Curious” food of the week? What about your little ones – do they have any foods they’ve been learning about in school that they would like to see on our blog? Feel free to comment below, or send us an email to tell us about an unusual fruit or vegetable you have encountered in your travels, in restaurants or even in your local supermarket! See a food you don’t recognize? Take a picture and send it to us, and we’ll put our detectives to work.